Left to right: Janine Brito, Nato Green, and W. Kamau Bell; Photo: Ameen Belbahri

Laughter Against the Machine: Coming To a Town Near You?

by Kate Sedgwick Sep 15, 2011
What do Madison, WI, Tucson, AZ, New Orleans, LA, Dearborn and Detroit, MI, and Oakland, CA have in common?

Aside from populations that have been dicked around by the system in a big way, they are all destinations for the Laughter Against the Machine comedy tour. It’s precisely because of the political issues in these cities that comedians W. Kamau Bell, Janine Brito, and Nato Green are going there to blast their breeds of political humor at audiences who need it the most. And they’re filming a documentary about it along the way.

From the LATM website:

Nato and Kamau conceived Laughter Against The Machine in 2008 as an issue-oriented comedy show where the comedians and the audience expect to be challenged to laugh and think at the same time.

Various iterations of the LATM lineup have played to packed houses in Portland, OR, San Francisco, CA, and other liberal bastions, but the difference this time is not only the addition of Janine Brito, but the fact that they are taking the show to the parts of the country most affected by the issues they’re discussing.

They’re also doing a documentary project about the tour. And from the looks of the website, they’re getting into the issues these cities face in the film. W. Kamau Bell posted a blog yesterday that mentions multiple border crossings into Mexico, saying,

…we had a tight schedule of finding out out exactly how fucked up the immigration policies are of Mexico and the U.S. (HINT: They are veeeeeeeeeery fucked up.) After spending yesterday in an American courtroom to see the result of crossing the “border” illegally, today we got to see how harrowing it is to make that trip in the first place.”

In other words, this isn’t going to be another stand-up special focused on the shows alone. LATM is out there, talking to activists, digging into heavy issues like immigration, union rights, mismanagement of FEMA funds, and who knows what other godawful systemic problems that’ve slipped off the national radar in the last few years.

I don’t know how they’re going to make depressing shit like this funny. If you check out the page for the documentary project, you can get a taste of it. I’m not one to quote sound bites, but Portland Mercury says, “These Laughs Kill Fascists,” and I completely believe the hype (inasmuch as I recognize it as hyperbole).

The documentary and tour were funded wholly through Kickstarter. If you missed them in Tucson or Chicago, there are still plenty of dates on the tour, which finishes in Michigan mid-November. If I were in the US right now, I’d be following these motherfuckers like a Phish-head — only the epiphanies I’d be snickering to myself about alone in my car after the show would be legit.

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